Raccoons are non-monogamous mammals that begin seeking mates between ages one and two years. The mating process begins a romantic courting process that can last for several hours or even days. However, the raccoon is an animal that switches between polygyny and promiscuity.
If a pair of raccoons are successful, they will live-birth between two and seven kits after a two-month gestation period. While the mother raccoon raises their baby raccoons for their first few months, the father raccoon will leave. After they reach their age of sexual maturity, the kits are sent on their own to repeat the reproduction process themselves.
This article discusses raccoon reproduction, including the raccoon’s mating, gestation, and birthing processes. It also discusses the first stages of life for raccoon babies and what to do if you find a raccoon kit.
How Do Raccoons Mate?
Table of Contents
- 1 How Do Raccoons Mate?
- 2 When Is The Raccoon’s Mating Season?
- 3 Can Raccoons Mate With Other Animals (Cats, Ringtails, etc.)?
- 4 How Long Are Raccoons Pregnant?
- 5 How Do Raccoons Give Birth?
- 6 What Are Raccoon Kits Like?
- 7 Where Do Mother Raccoons Keep Their Babies?
- 8 Do Raccoon Mothers Abandon Their Babies?
- 9 What Happens If You Touch A Baby Raccoon?
- 10 How Do Raccoon Mothers Protect Their Babies?
- 11 How To Tell the Age of a Baby Raccoon
Raccoons go through a courting process to mate. It is an annual process that must be re-performed yearly since the male raccoon is a promiscuous lover who can form multiple bonds at once.
The Raccoon Courting Process
Raccoons go through an annual mating process where male raccoons court mates of the opposite gender. Both males and females are actively involved in the mating process as they seek out a partner. They begin with a mating call that strongly resembles a whistle. Then, if they are successful in the courting process, they will win a partner and procreate.
Raccoons and Monogamy
Raccoons are not monogamous, meaning they must find a new mate each season. Raccoons switch between polygyny and promiscuity. In other words, male raccoons will try to mate with as many partners as possible, hoping they are successful with at least one of them.
After succeeding, he will stop.
Interestingly, female raccoons mate with one raccoon each season. If she is unsuccessful, she will try again four months later with the same male. So you could say that female raccoons are monogamous.
Why Are Female Raccoons Monogamous?
You may wonder why male raccoons are polygamous whereas female raccoons are monogamous.
Apart from biological reasons, female raccoon mamas are known to separate themselves from other raccoons once they give birth. Usually, female raccoons like to stay in a pack. Yet, a pregnant raccoon likes to stay in isolation.
It might be because once the female raccoon gives birth to her litter, the male raccoon gets hostile towards their own litter.
Due to this, the mother raccoon protects her own litter from any kind of danger by spending her time with them till they’re mature enough to protect themselves.
Raccoons Scream While Mating
While mating, raccoons let out loud screaming sounds. These screams can sound distressing as if the animal is in danger of being attacked. However, the animal is entirely okay, and there is no reason to worry.
Raccoons Mate at Different Ages
The female raccoon reaches the age of reproductive maturity at age one, and male raccoons reach their age of maturity at age two. They can both begin seeking out a mate at these ages. However, it is uncommon for the female to begin mating until her second mating season.
Instead, the matured female may spend time observing her mother as she raises the next litter of kits to learn how to be a successful mother.
When Is The Raccoon’s Mating Season?
Raccoon mating season occurs between late January and mid-March. The raccoon mating season occurs once per year. If a female is unsuccessful during the initial mating season, she may become fertile again to retry mating.
Additionally, a female who loses her kits after the initial pregnancy may become fertile again. If she has already chosen a mate, she may try again or seek another mate.
The mating season lasts in the later winter season, as winter transitions to spring. During this time, the daylight hours are beginning to increase. They will continue to increase as winter transitions to spring and spring transitions to summer.
Can Raccoons Mate With Other Animals (Cats, Ringtails, etc.)?
Many people think raccoons can mate with animals of the same size. Raccoons can’t mate with other animals such as ringtails, opossums, and cats. Raccoons may only exclusively mate with other raccoons.
Rumor spread that cats and raccoons may mate, resulting in the Maine Coon. According to Maine Coon Central, science does not support raccoons mating with cats. The Maine Coon cat is the descendant of the Norweigan Forest cat, with no genetic relation to raccoons.
How Long Are Raccoons Pregnant?
Female raccoons are pregnant for roughly 60 to 63 days. After these two months, the mother raccoon will live-birth their young in a nest that has been pre-prepared by the male and female raccoons.
In cases where the gestation period is longer, they may even give birth at the beginning of mid-June.
After the female raccoon gives birth, the male will leave the female and newborn kits alone to return to a solitary lifestyle. He will not return until the next mating season, where he may or may not recouple with the same female.
How Do Raccoons Give Birth?
When raccoon mothers are ready to give birth they will retire to a secure hiding place, such as a den that they have established beforehand.
Since raccoons are mammals, they give live birth to their young. They’re not marsupials like opossums which keep their babies in a pouch after birth, and raccoons do not lay eggs as birds and reptiles do.
What Are Raccoon Kits Like?
Raccoon kits are very active. They make a lot of mewing and crying noises, typically signaling to their mothers because their eyes are not open. As their vocal cords develop, they will become more rowdy and playful with their siblings.
Raccoon Kit Behavior
Baby raccoons are typically rambunctious and active mammals. When living in groups, kits will interact and play with each other. They may growl and hiss, squeal, wrestle, and fight with each other. However, this is not a sign of aggression -this is a sign of positive cognitive and physical development.
As the baby raccoon grows older, it will follow its mother closely. They learn to do things until they eventually leave the nest.
The female raccoons form closer bonds to the mother. Their close bonds evolve from an interest in learning how to be mothers. They also have a greater interest in surviving and prospering for their future kits.
Baby Raccoon Noises
Raccoon kits are known for making mewing, crying, and purring noises. The baby raccoon has a limited vocal range upon birth, so they are limited in the noises they can make.
The noises they make are high-pitched, like squeaks and squeals, which sound similar to a kitten’s mew. They also spend a lot of time crying and whining for their mothers when they are not sleeping.
As an adult, the raccoon will make over two hundred sounds. These vocalizations help them communicate with other raccoons and imitate other animals.
Raccoon Kit Appearance
Raccoon kits are between four and five inches large when born. Upon birth, the raccoon kit’s eyes are closed, and they cannot stand because they do not have strength in their legs. The kits have short fur, all gray with no color patterns. As they grow older, color patterns begin to emerge.
The color pattern development begins with the mask around their eyes, then rings on their tails, and so forth until all unique colorations begin to show.
Baby Raccoon Eating Habits
Raccoon kits will nurse for roughly twelve weeks. After these first initial weeks, the mother will begin teaching them how to forage food by observing their mother as she forages. They will also participate in foraging.
When Do Raccoon Kits Open Their Eyes?
Raccoon kits open their eyes at roughly three to four weeks.
The mother will begin bringing them with her to teach them to hunt independently. At this stage, they are developing the independence needed to leave their mother around age nine months.
As they can now see the world with their own eyes, baby raccoons will often leave their den to explore on their own at 6 weeks. Come nightfall, however, they would return to their den to be with their mother. Baby raccoons also don’t typically wean until August or later.
Baby Raccoon Independency
By the time a baby raccoon is nine months old, they will have learned to become fully independent. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, despite the ability to leave the nest at this time, many female raccoons choose to stay with their mothers to help raise her next litter of kits.
Where Do Mother Raccoons Keep Their Babies?
Mother raccoons are very particular about where they keep their babies. During the first few months of their lives, baby raccoon kits are vulnerable because of their size, inability to defend themselves, and difficulty understanding their surroundings.
Mother raccoons will keep their babies in safe places for the first few months of their lives until they have developed good leg muscles. Leg muscles will help the baby raccoon flee from predators if they encounter them, given the mother raccoon cannot carry all her kits in her mouth at one time.
Mother Raccoons Keep Babies in Dens
Mother raccoons keep their raccoon kits in dens for the first few months of their lives because they are so weak. Since they are only around 100 grams and a few inches long in the first few days, the mother raccoon is extra cautious of predators. They will move their babies to different nests, if necessary.
Common places that raccoons like to hide include:
- Tree nests
- Under porches
- Tree trunks
- Crawl spaces
- Between walls
- Abandoned buildings/houses
Raccoons will make their dens anywhere they feel safe. Typically, they change den locations each day. However, an extra-safe den might mean extended stays.
Mother Raccoons Keep Babies in Her Mouth
While traveling, the mother raccoon will carry her kit in her mouth by the scruff of its neck. Carrying her kit this way gives her accessibility of all her appendages to balance easily and does not cause injury to her kit.
Do Raccoon Mothers Abandon Their Babies?
Mother raccoons do not usually abandon their babies. However, they will frequently leave their babies to eat and scavenge food.
If you find a baby raccoon, you should not try to move them. It is best to assume that the mother raccoon is nearby and will return soon. The longer you stay near her kits, the longer she will stay fearful of returning. In addition to spooking the mother from returning, you may upset the mother by touching or moving her kits.
Confusing or upsetting a mother raccoon could result in biting or attacking.
What Happens If You Touch A Baby Raccoon?
Touching a baby raccoon can be dangerous because of potential health problems and the defensive strategies of mother raccoons. Baby raccoons are cute animals, but they can also be very dangerous.
Raccoons Can Pass Diseases to Humans
Raccoons can carry many diseases which are easily transmittable to humans and pets. Baby raccoons can be precious, but touching a baby raccoon can cause fatality to you or your pet. Illnesses like rabies and parvovirus are contagious and irreversible if not immediately treated.
Raccoons Might Get Frightened
If you touch a baby raccoon, the chances are you might frighten them. Frightening a raccoon could cause you to get bit, passing a dangerous illness to you. Just because the raccoon is a fluffy baby does not mean they will not bite, scratch, or attack you.
Mother Raccoons Will Attack You For Touching Their Young
Mother raccoons are highly territorial, so do not be surprised if you get attacked for trying to touch a baby raccoon when the mother is nearby. The first reaction of the mother raccoon is to attack you for approaching her babies, even if you do not mean any harm to them.
How Do Raccoon Mothers Protect Their Babies?
Mother raccoons will do anything in their power to protect her young. Protecting her young does not always include physically defending them. A mother raccoon protects her young from danger by finding them a safe spot to hide while she is away, teaching them to fight and hunt on their own, and fighting off predators -including humans.
Mother Raccoons Hide Their Young
The number one way mother raccoons protect their babies is by establishing an isolated nest to hide their newborn kits. Mother raccoons will find a good hiding place that is high, hidden, and away from predators -including humans. Then, she keeps them there for the first few months of their lives until they can run.
If you are worried about a raccoon in your home, forget to look places in direct eyesight. Check somewhere out of direct vision like the attic, a back shed, under the porch, or somewhere else infrequently visited.
Mother Raccoons Defend Their Young
A mother raccoon will always defend her young if she finds them in peril. If the mother raccoon is unhappy, she will most likely show it through vocalizations and body language. Posturing, hissing, and growling are key indicators that the mother raccoon wants you to take a step back!
Mother Raccoons Teach Their Young to Survive
The ultimate goal for the mother raccoon is to teach their newborn kits self-sufficiency. That way, they will not need protecting, caring for, and defending. A self-reliant raccoon knows how to hunt and defend itself, which means that it can survive independently.
How To Tell the Age of a Baby Raccoon
So, how can you tell the age of a baby raccoon if they only open their eyes at approximately 3 to 4 weeks? We’ll discuss the best ways for you to estimate the age of a baby raccoon that you may come across, as you’ll then know if they require your assistance in case they’ve been abandoned.
As we’ve mentioned, baby raccoons are nearly furless and blind at birth. Their eyes and ears will appear closed, and you’ll notice them in a spread-out position at most times. At 1 week, baby raccoons will begin to make chittering bird-like noises, although they are still unable to walk. Mild tail rings will start to form.
The eyes and ears of a baby raccoon will open at 3 to 4 weeks, and they will become more vocal than before. Baby raccoons will only begin to walk at 6 weeks, allowing them to explore their surroundings without their mother.
Once the baby raccoon has reached 9 to 12 weeks, you’ll notice that they are more independent and rely less on their mothers. This is when they begin to mature and will be able to fend for themselves in the wild.